Three Days of Cheese-making, Part II

Part II: A Tale of Two [Failed] Cheeses

It all started last year, following the long-standing success of our Ricotta-Mozzarella class. People obviously love to make cheese at home, so why not teach them something new? Now it’s one thing to write curriculum and type up recipes. It is quite another to execute three cheeses, with different ingredients and different timing, all at the same time. I love a good challenge, but teaching this class blind seemed like a really bad idea.

I set about testing the recipes and configuring the timing, and my first run was a disaster. Many hours and several gallons of milk later, I was no closer to making cheese than I was before I started. In fact, I might have been a little farther away, since I now had more questions than answers. cheese cartoonCottage Cheese
I again started the cottage cheese first. I used the Junket Rennet, dissolving a full tablet in ½ cup of water, using half and setting half aside for the basket cheese. Once again, when I heated the resulting curds, they seized into a gritty, squeaky, stretchy mass. Fail!

Basket Cheese
Three hours after beginning the cottage cheese, I heated milk for the basket cheese, adding the rennet I had set aside. After two hours (more than twice as long as it should have taken to coagulate) I still had milk. At the tail end of the night, after everything else was cleaned up and stowed away, I finally threw in the towel, added some lemon juice, and turned it into ricotta.


Swapping out the homemade vinegar for organic lemon juice: success!

The cottage cheese was a conundrum: obviously the rennet worked, so that wasn’t the problem. But the rennet didn’t work with the basket cheese, so it was the problem – at least with the one cheese. To troubleshoot this second batch, I pulled in another consult: Vince, our cheese intern. When I asked him what causes that texture in a cheese, he explained that when the acidity level is too high, it causes the cheese to seize too quickly, resulting in the gritty texture. When asked what causes high acidity, his answer set off the light bulb that caused my freefall into cheesy enlightenment, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the Farmstead Cheese class a success.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s cheese-making finale, If at First You Don’t Succeed…

1902 - Family purchased farm

1910 - Leased land to dairy farmer

1987 - Hamill Brothers inherit farm

2002 - Started as a family business

2003 - Started a beef herd, laying hens, and pigs

2004 - Added sheep and attained organic certification of pasture land

2005 - Added dairy herd and began making fresh cheeses like mozzarella

2006 - Built aging caves and began making aged cheeses

2012 - Grid Magazine’s Cheese of the Month (Nov – Full Nettle Jack); Finalist at the Good Food Awards (Toma)

2013 - Won 2 blue ribbons from the American Cheese Society(for Buttercup Brie and Lawrenceville Jack Reserve); Added second cheesemaker

2014 - Broke ground on additional aging space and began process of getting AWA certification for our chickens